Bushmen arrested for hunting despite court judgement

Twenty-one Gana and Gwi Bushmen have been arrested by Botswana police for hunting on their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. The men were arrested during June and early July and were due to appear in court last week.

Last December the High Court of Botswana ruled that the Bushmen had the right to live inside the reserve and that the government had acted against the law in 2002 when it refused to issue them with hunting permits and then evicted them from their lands.

Justice Phumaphi said in his ruling, 'The simultaneous stoppage of the supply of food rations and the issuing of SGLs [hunting licences] [was] tantamount to condemning the remaining residents of the CKGR to death by starvation.'

Since the judgment, the government has continued to insist that the Gana and Gwi do not have the right to hunt within the reserve. It has also refused to let the Bushmen use the water borehole on their land or to bring their few goats back into the game reserve.

Of the approximately 700 people evicted from their land in 2002, more than a hundred have since returned home. Hundreds more remain afraid to do so.

Survival International spokesperson, Jonathan Mazower, said today, 'Why is the Botswana government still determined to keep the Bushmen out of their ancestral land, in spite of its own court's ruling and in spite of the continuing damage this is doing to the country's reputation? Why is it adding fuel to the fire by arresting men trying to feed their families? We can only hope that this time they won't be beaten and tortured as they have in the past.'

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email mr@survival-international.org